By JAM PINPIN
MANILA – Fisherfolk group Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (PAMALAKAYA-Pilipinas) protested before the national headquarters of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources “one of the biggest environmental disasters to hit Manila Bay.”
The fisherfolk group views the San Miguel Corporation’s project, Bulacan Aerotropolis, as a threat not only to the livelihood of some 700 fishing families in the towns of Bulakan and Obando in Bulacan province, but also to the food security of the country. It warned of worse degradation of the marine biodiversity in Manila Bay should the big conglomerate’s project pushed through.
Along with environmental group Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment (PNE) and other progressive groups, Pamalakaya brought some cooked fish and rice at the gate of the central office of the DENR on the occasion of World Food Day. Accompanying them are fishermen and women from fishing communities of Cavite and Bulacan.
Every October 16 is World Food Day. But given the state of many Filipino households nowadays, the day is dubbed by progressive groups as “World Foodless Day.” Showing the food they brought to dramatize the risks, the fishes were either already halved or considerably smaller.
Project aproved without consultation
The National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) has already approved last April the P700-billion Bulacan Aerotropolis project of SMC. The project aims to construct it at the 2,500-hectare waters of Manila Bay, converting mangroves, and coastal and fishing communities in the towns of Bulakan and Obando in Bulacan in the process.
PAMALAKAYA estimated that around 700 fishing families in seven coastal sitios (villages) of Barangay Taliptip in Bulakan town will be displaced by the SMC’s project.
Not only that, there will also be massive losses of mangroves. Bulakan is known as one of the key biodiversity areas in the country and is home to 22 types of mangroves including Piapi, a firm type of mangrove that serves as a natural wave barrier and shelter for fish.
Last August, some 643 mangroves were cleared in Barangay Taliptip where the proposed airport would likely be built. Based on the Coastal Resource Management Project conducted by scientist group AGHAM, 670 kilos of fish catch will be lost for every hectare of mangrove that will be damaged.
“Twenty-four (24) hectares of fishing reservation areas will be wiped out because of the land reclamation. This also means a loss of traditional fish species and fish catch of small fisherfolk,” Fernando Hicap, PAMALAKAYA National Chairperson, said in a statement.
In front of the DENR, the group vowed to oppose what they called as a grand sellout of our traditional fishing waters.
“None of the fisherfolk deserves to be ejected from their community just to pave the way for an international airport and metropolis that will only benefit a few developers, particularly Ramon Ang of SMC,” Hicap said. He countered the promises uttered by the SMC and NEDA that the aerotropolis project would foster development. “No such thing will happen if hundreds of fishing families will be forcibly ejected from their homes while the rich marine ecosystem and biodiversity will be destroyed.”
Aside from the 700 families who stand to lose their homes and livelihood, the project to build an international airport on the current fishing grounds and timberlands would also lessen the country’s fish production – resulting in higher cost of fish and seafood. Pamalakaya said the province of Bulacan accounts for at least 41 million metric tons of fishery and marine products every year, primarily milkfish (bangus) and prawn.
“We urge the DENR to prevent this destructive project from happening, by not granting the project an environmental permit,” Hicap said.
The group ended the picket protest with some of the fisherfolk going inside the DENR for a scheduled dialogue concerning reclamation projects in Manila Bay.